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"Our Religion and Our Tongue"
James 1:26

Wednesday AM Bible Study
May 28, 2003

If you were to do a personal study of James' letter, you'd be amazed at how often he speaks of the tongue (meaning, of course, our habits of speech). He has already said, you'll remember, that we should be "quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger . . ." (1:19). He warns us to "so speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty" (2:12). In perhaps one of the most familiar passages in the Bible about the tongue, James says, ". . . We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well" (3:3). He describes the horrible potential of the tongue in 3:1-12; and here also shows us that the control of the tongue is strategic.

Many people believe that they can express the outward manifestations of "religion", and yet not worry about what they do with their tongues < so long as they are living "religious" lives. But Jesus Himself told us that this is not so (Matthew 12:34-37). According to James, to ignore the tongue is to make one's religion "worthless". The matters of the tongue are terribly important.

"If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart ..." (NKJV)
A. The word James uses for "religious" is one that refers to outward expressions of religion. He isn't talking about someone being a Christian, because that involves an inward transformation. A Christian is someone who has been transformed because Jesus lives in them. To call somone a Christ is to refer to what someone is (see John 1:12-13). But the word James uses, thrÍskos, speaks of what someone "does" (see Acts 26:5 as an example).

B. James says that such a person only "thinks" themselves religious (or "seems" or "considers himself" to be so). In other words, such a person thinks themselves to be something because of what they "do"; but that they are deceived in this, because what they really "are" is betrayed by the way they use their tongues. They are self-deceived.

"... thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue ..."

A. To "bridle" the tongue is a figure of speech for bringing it under control. But it isn't that James is saying, "Control your tongue and all will be well." The real issue is what is in the heart, which is revealed in the tongue.
1. Look at Prov. 4:23-24; and see how the tongue and the heart are related.

2. Look also at Psalm 141:3; and see how they are related.

3. Most of all, look at Mark 7:20-23; and see how Jesus related the tongue and the heart.

4. Look also at how Jesus related these two in Luke 6:43-45.

B. The word for "bridle" is put in the present tense. This refers to an ongoing practice. Because we still have the principle of sin dwelling in us, we will occasionally use our tongues wrongly. The true test is in our practice. Do we confess the sins of the tongue and repent of them? Or is sins with the tongue our regular habit of life?

"... this ones religion is useless."

A. Religion without tongue-control is described by James as not accomplishing what the person thinks it accomplishes. He describes it as "vain" or "ineffective" or "useless". This is because it is an indicator of what's really in the heart.

B. What sort of things come out of the mouth and betray a worthless religion?

1. Lying (Prov. 6:16-19).

2. Cursing (James 3:9-12; Eph. 4:29-30; 1 Peter 2:9).

3. Swearing and oaths (Matthew 5:33-37).

4. Slander and gossip (James 4:11-12).

5. Filthy talk (Eph. 5:1-5; Col. 3:8).

C. The more truly "religious" we become, the more sensitive we will be to the sins of our own mouths (Isa. 6:5). The place to begin is not by cleaning up our mouth, but by confessing the sin in our hearts.

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